“Did you know you’ve been translated into Russian?” This was a question asked of me last weekend at a board meeting by a man who spends most of his time teaching in that country. He went on to tell me an article I’d written for a journal in the US was translated by someone in Russia and posted on social media. As I’m not on Russian websites, I had no idea that my writing was making its rounds half-way around the world and the knowledge of it blew me away.
As writers, we only see a small part of the larger role we play. Once we publish, we have no control, let alone knowledge, of where it goes and what lives our words affect.
I found a great metaphor for this truth in the drawing class I’m taking. As homework, we had to draw on little squares a piece of a larger picture without knowing what that picture was. The next week when we put all our pieces together into one cohesive whole, it turned out we had, together, drawn a tiger. Our writing is much the same. We never know what part our words play in the lives of others. That article translated into Russian was one I nearly didn’t write. I didn’t think the journal would publish a piece on the topic I had in mind but it was all I had to write about and the editor was expecting something from me. So I wrote it. When I finished, I sent the piece off fully expecting to get an e-mail telling me to try again. What I got was a letter from the editor telling me how much the piece meant to her personally, that I could write for them anytime, and would I please send along my picture and bio. Frankly, she left me speechless. Months later when we talked about it in person, she told me to keep pushing the edges in my articles and that she would love for me to write more. This “edgy” article is the one now published in Russia.
Whenever I think of how far my writing traveled, I am still stunned. Why is it the material I’m hesitant to put on paper goes the furthest? Why are the pieces I understand the least the most powerful? I drew my little square, I wrote the article, and am shocked to find it’s so much more than I first imagined it to be. But what I suspect is the case, is when I’m pushing the boundaries and taking risks, I am writing out of my most genuine self. I don’t try to hold myself back. Fully expecting to be rejected anyway, I was real and the writing was powerful. We as humans are attracted to other people who are willing to be themselves completely whether in person or in their writing. This is why we love authors who are open with who they are inside: it speaks to who we are and helps us see ourselves in a new way. We each need to share what we have.
What is the little square you’ve been given? What piece of the larger picture is itching in your fingers to be written? Even if you don’t understand the why of it all, listen to what the muse is telling you and write it. You have a piece of the picture inside you we need to see in order to understand how we all fit into the whole.